Partnership With Craig Kielburger Still Strong 10 Years On

I started working at TEAM/Mentor as a phys. ed. teacher (it was several “blood moons” ago!) so while I got the chance to pass along my sporting knowledge, I didn’t really get the opportunity to use my History B.A. I have now spent over half of my life working at the school and as a result, I notice that I have become one of the unofficial school “historians”. My short-term memory is lacking (if you believe Mrs. Starkey) but I am blessed/cursed with being able to remember details from long ago.

As I was helping to chauffeur our more than 60 students and staff members (from three divisions of our school) to We Day yesterday morning, I remembered the very first encounter our school had with that organization. It was the 2005-2006 school year and Craig Kielburger was the presenter at our annual Speaker Series. Me to We and We Day did not exist at that point; Craig and his brother Marc were the co-founders of Free the Children and were just starting to make headlines.

Kielburger had a huge impact on the audience of teenagers and teachers and soon afterwards, the Take Action Group was formed. This team of high school students and staff held a very successful charity golf tournament the following spring and similar groups sprouted up in the TEAM and Intermediate divisions as well. In the past decade, the growth of the Kielburgers’ organization has mirrored that of the clubs that Craig’s speech here at our school spawned. Free the Children, Me to We and the hottest-ticket-in-town “We Day” have grown exponentially over the years.

Craig’s message at the Air Canada Centre today will no doubt be similar to the one he passed along to us 10 years ago: if he (as a 12-year-old boy) could affect change on the other side of the world in the sweatshop garment industry, what was stopping Mentor/TEAM students from doing the same? Our student groups have been inspired to do everything from a “guess the number of jelly beans” contest to support a local animal shelter to a major fundraiser for a school-building project in Sierra Leone to student trips in India, Ecuador and Kenya. And to bring things full circle, we have a former student who works full-time for Free the Children and there are at least four alumni volunteering their time at We Day today! It has been a wonderful 10-year partnership and we cannot wait to see what the next decade will bring.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College / TEAM School

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